President Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination was crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore.— Robert Costa (@costareports) July 4, 2020
My latest report w/ @PhilipRucker https://t.co/rRox4Xin5Y
Because Trump is not actually the president of the entirety of America, having abdicated on several fronts (such as national security against Russia and coronavirus, from the looks of things) and not actually caring about more than the interests of himself at most with some overlapping with a <50% quantity of other Americans at best, I find it useful to look at Trump's remarks Friday night regarding "Americans" versus "them":
"Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing."
"They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive. But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them."
Does he not know that the people taking up space to correct the public record are mostly American citizens? Does he not understand they are confronting a whitewashed history with a history truer in color to the original cut? They aren't wiping out history; they are gifting us with a perspective that was under-recognized. They aren't defaming heroes; they are demanding we see historical figures, not on pedestals, but in the full context of their actions. They ask that we as a society live up to the values we mean to enshrine. They want our children and their own to know that history is multi-faceted.
"The American people" in his construction are "weak and soft and submissive" if they don't resist what he frames in counter-revolutionary terms--as an undoing of what the founders fought for. But the founders did not fight for this nation to be a graveyard of national monuments to be dusted and cared for anymore than they were themselves made of marble, plaster, or bronze, instead of flesh and blood; they fought for a living Constitution and a vibrant and growing creedal nation. I see the protesting Americans as deposing the idea of the monumental person in the way the founders rejected the right of kings; they come not to destroy the revolution, but to fulfil it, and I'm in favor of it. We can do better, and should, and need to, and the future deserves it.
This was, for Trump, a campaign speech, against a magnificent backdrop that afforded him the opportunity to speak of the shared heritage of a diverse nation in the tones of a uniter--to speak, in other words, as a president, and a person who recognized the legacy he inherited by the grace of the electoral college and the responsibility he held having taken its solemn oath of office. In the grand space of the Lakota lands where the rightful people under treaty were repelled from their protest just hours before, his people bound folding chairs together to create a tight crowd of 3700 close enough to smell each others breath in the midst of a goddamn pandemic.
He is a man both too small and with an ego too large for the place he holds. In turning an Independence Day themed event into a culture-war themed event, he gave away a lot of what occupies his mind. It too, has a monument that needs overturning. Because someone with such a limited worldview can even live in the White House, but isn't ever gonna really be president of all of this.
(Blog title courtesy of having just watched Hamilton, which was awesome.)